That it is a Subhash Ghai production isnâ€™t the only thing surprising about Joggersâ€™ Park. It is also a surprisingly fresh look at romance between a younger girl and an older man (now, now, Bollywood doesnâ€™t have very many successful examples of that, does it?). Though Hindi filmmakers have tried exploring an age-imbalanced romantic relationship, the younger-girl-and-older-man theme has had very little success. Ek Nayi Paheli (a unsuccessful K. Balachander remake of his successful Tamil movie), Shaukeen (a Basu Chatterjee comedy which enjoyed moderate success), and Lamhe (arguably one of the best ever depictions of romance on celluloid, which bombed at the Indian B.O.) are some examples that come to mind. Of course each of those films dealt with much more than just the younger-girl-older-man romance, but given the shaky reception to this theme, Ghai backs a project that tackles it (he in fact, is credited with the concept), and allows director Anant Balani to infuse Joggersâ€™ Park with a refreshing sense of simplicity. Most of this works charmingly, though it does fall quite a bit short of being a brilliant film. Letâ€™s just say that Joggersâ€™ Park is a nice film that you will enjoy watching on DVD in the comfort of your home.
The story is rather simple. Jenny, a twenty-something part-time hotel exec and part-time model is an effervescent Mumbai gal (Perizaad Zorabian) and JC, is a sixty-something retired judge, Justice Jyotin Prasad Chatterjee (Victor Banerjee). JC, just retired, socially unskilled, and at a loss as to how to spend his time, is persuaded by his family to jog every morning at Joggersâ€™ Park. Here he is exposed to an energetic new life, that brings with it Jenny. The film moves at its own relaxed pace in establishing the bond between JC and Jenny. Given that JC is a much married man with a large family, what happens to the love that develops between JC and Jenny is dealt with in the second half.
While the filmâ€™s unhurried pace doesnâ€™t hamper its first half, it certainly bogs down the second half, and the last half-hour leaves much to be desired in its treatment. Tautness of script is a virtue easily overlooked by many filmmakers. They either feel compelled to stretch a story to its obligatory two-hour plus length, or feel so deeply attached to their own material that they scarcely know what to trim in the final cut. Joggersâ€™ Park suffers from this very lack of tautness that makes it drag in patches. There are other flaws as well. Save for the two lead characters and to an extent the cameo by Divya Dutta, stereotypical portrayals (for e.g., the Sardarji friend) and half-baked characters pervade the film. Even Khalid Siddiquiâ€™s character which is pivotal to the main story is unsatisfactorily sketched. Just a little extra care at the writing and editing table would have taken care of these blemishes though. For, in sum, Joggersâ€™ Park has more things in its favor than not.
Its main strength is that it is superbly cast in its lead roles. Perizaad Zorabian is charming, camera-friendly, confident and very everyday-beautiful (as opposed to movie-star beautiful). It works wonders for her character as she is more than convincing as Jenny. Clinching the acting honors however, is Victor Banerjee. Delightfully restrained and fitting the requirements of the role to a T, Banerjee reminds you what a fabulous actor he still is. His not-too-frequent forays into Hindi cinema in the late seventies and mostly in the eighties were particularly effective in Shyam Benegalâ€™s Kalyug and Aarohan, Satyajit Rayâ€™s Shatranj ke Khiladi, and perhaps nothing short of brilliant in David Leanâ€™s A Passage to India. Banerjee who was last seen in a small cameo in Bhoot, carries the film and lends it an understated strength and most of its credibility. Divya Dutta hits the right notes in her small but substantive role towards the filmâ€™s finale.
Though Joggersâ€™ Park is a small-budget film, Ghai does not make it look technically weak. Music by Tabun Sutradhar is unobtrusive and perfectly fitting in a film like this. The lone flashy number could have been done away with, but thatâ€™s one of those patches that needed the editing scissors. While Jagjit Singhâ€™s ghazal Badi Nazuk Hain, and Usha Uthupâ€™s rendition of the title track are extremely pleasing to the ear, it is Adnan Samiâ€™s Ishq Hota Nahin which is top-notch. It is a soulful number that gels with the mood and emotions that the film attempts to evoke. What you will probably remember of this film apart from the lead performances is Samiâ€™s velvety rendition. Yes, Joggersâ€™ Park is definitely worth the jog, if only on video/dvd.